Games: Poker

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One of the commonest mistakes you can make at poker, or, to put it more accurately, one of the commonest mistakes that I make, is to get a single hand out of proportion to the rest of the game. The other night, having turned a hefty loss into a moderate win at Omaha high-low, I was feeling rather pleased with myself.

A final hand was agreed. I was dealt 10-J-J-K, which is promising enough. There was a raise before the flop, which came down 6-7-J off-suit. A fearless gambler on my right took a wild re-raise after the initial round of betting, which made it pounds 150 to go.

My first instinct was to raise him back because, after all, I had the best high at that stage with trip jacks. What's more, if no other low cards came on the board (to qualify, the low hand has to be 8 or better), it would be a one-way pot. My second instinct was to fold, despite having the best hand. Why get involved at this late hour against a big gambler? But prompted by a mocking internal voice inquiring "Are you a man or a mouse?" I called the bet. Two other players were already all-in. Next card off was a 9. My opponent checked. It was obvious that he had not hit a straight.

A: (10-J-J-K)

Flop: 6-7-J-9

B: (x-x-x-x)

A low hand was now unlikely, though not quite out of the question if he was hoping to back in for half the pot. I checked along, because I knew that if I bet, even with the top trips, he would call, against the odds, especially if he also had a straight draw such as a 4-5. I did not want to overplay my own hand.

Last card was another 7, giving me best full house, jacks on sevens. He paused and then bet pounds 300 at me. If he had started with a pair of 7s, hitting the case 7 was a 43-1 shot. These things do happen. But on the chance that he only had a full house 6s, or more likely, knowing him, that he was trying to bomb me out, I called. He showed me four 7s and I retired with a sore head.

I should never have got involved on this hand, which was way out of line with the rest of the game. I got it back later in the week, but that did not console me for my poor judgement. If you are going to make a mistake at poker, it is cheaper to do it by folding than by calling.

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